At the last two eSchool News “Grants and Funding for School Technology” conferences, there were sessions on how to make your technology plan a powerful fundraising tool. Though I couldn’t attend these sessions, I think it’s an important topic. I’d like to share my own thoughts about the relationship between having an effective technology plan and crafting winning proposals for technology initiatives.

Some grant programs request a copy of your technology plan along with your proposal. For others, such as the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, a copy of your approved technology plan must be on file with your state Department of Education. Still others ask specific questions about your district’s technology plan that must be addressed in your proposal.

The first issue we need to examine is, when did you write your technology plan and when did you last update it? I can remember about four years ago in Pennsylvania when the rush was on to design districtwide technology plans, because it appeared that federal and state funding would require a technology plan as an addendum for some proposals.

Unfortunately, many of those plans were driven solely by the districts’ technology needs. Many technology coordinators took inventory of what equipment was missing from their districts and put together a “wish list” of the technology they wanted to acquire within the next five years or so.

If this sounds all too familiar, take out your technology plan and examine it very closely, especially if it’s been gathering dust on a shelf for the last couple of years. Are your technology needs tied directly to student achievement? Do you…

• Go beyond hardware to address topics such as staff development and the integration of technology into the curriculum?

• Include an evaluation plan to determine how effectively you’re integrating technology–and how you plan to make changes to your staff development in order to improve?

• Mention your state’s standards and/or the competencies to be addressed in your district, and the role that technology will play in the process?

• Designate a technology committee with teacher, parent, student, and community representatives, so your technology plan stays current and meets a variety of stakeholders’ needs?

Why should your technology plan contain these components, and what do they have to do with getting grants? The answer is simple: Funders want to fund projects, not equipment purchases.

A technology plan that is driven by student and teacher needs will help guide you in your grantseeking activities. You’ll be able to match your needs to those of funders and identify the most appropriate grants to pursue.

The information that you’ve gathered to identify student and teacher needs can also be used in the needs assessment sections of your grant proposals. Likewise, you can include the evaluation plan that you’ve designed to measure how effectively you’re using technology in the classroom in your grant proposals as well; most proposals ask for an evaluation section, and if they don’t, your plan for gauging the success of your project is sure to impress nonetheless.

In many cases, a well-thought-out, well-designed, and clearly written technology plan will help you write well-thought-out, well-designed, and clearly written grant proposals for technology initiatives. Funders will be impressed with the project you’re proposing and the clear connection between your project, your plan to meet both students’ and teachers’ needs, and your technology plan.

The message to grant readers will be clear, too: We know what our needs are, here’s how we plan to meet those needs, here’s how we plan to evaluate how good we are at meeting those needs, and here’s what we expect the final outcome to be when we implement this project.

I once spoke to a Technology Innovation Challenge Grant reader who told me what impressed her the most about a proposal. The projects that she scored highest were those where it was evident there had been sufficient planning involving all stakeholders, and significant attention was paid to how the projects would be carried out on a day-to-day basis. It was clear that these projects fit perfectly within the goals of their districts. I’d be willing to bet these same districts had stellar technology plans.

If you’re going to apply for technology funding, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of your technology plan as a grantseeking tool. It’s worth the extra time it takes to examine your technology plan to determine if its sole focus is the equipment you want–or if it’s focused on meeting students’ and teachers’ needs instead. Make any necessary revisions to strengthen your plan. Then devise a system to do this on a regular basis. The grantseeker in you will be glad you did!